Ideas for Office Holiday Gift Exchange

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Choosing just the right thing for the office holiday gift exchange can be one of the most challenging parts of holiday shopping. At least when you're shopping for friends and family, you know enough about their likes and hobbies to give you some general gift-giving direction. If you draw names and get Diane in HR for the office Secret Santa gift exchange, you might not know anything about her except that her name is Diane and she works in HR.

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If your office is planning a white elephant gift exchange or some other kind of gift exchange game, you have even less to go on. Anyone at the office party could end up going home with the gift you choose. Finding a great gift that's office appropriate, that falls within the agreed-upon price limit and that will appeal to its recipient can be a tough needle to thread.

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But despair not! The holiday season is a time for miracles. With these gift exchange ideas, you're going to find something perfect in time for the holiday office party.

Tickets or gift cards for something local

Assuming you all live in the same area, tickets for local events and attractions make fun gifts. Buy gift vouchers for two tickets to the zoo, museum, a minor league/college sports game or an upcoming festival. A gift card for a local restaurant, bakery, coffee shop, mini golf course or movie theater should also be a crowd-pleaser of a holiday gift.

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Gift baskets

Food or drink gift baskets can be perfect gifts for a Secret Santa office exchange, assuming you know the person well enough to know whether they have any significant dietary restrictions. For a Yankee swap/white elephant gift, either stick to nonconsumable gift baskets or choose things that most people can eat and drink. Avoid alcohol and meat and try to keep basket contents dairy- and gluten-free if you can. Hopefully, whoever picks your gift will be able to enjoy what's inside no matter what restrictions they might have.

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Game or gadget gifts

Being able to fall back on toys makes it easy to shop for kids at Christmas. For your adult co-workers, buying games and gadgets is the closest thing to gifting toys. Card games, trivia games and tabletop games can all be fun gifts. Handheld single-player games, like an updated version of a Rubik's Cube, can also make great gifts. Those kinds of "fidget" toys are perfect for anyone whose job involves a lot of time on hands-free phone calls.

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Kitchen and tech gadgets can also be popular gifts. Think about things like a three-in-one wireless charger, waterproof Bluetooth speakers, a microwave-safe popcorn popper or a mini waffle maker that makes waffles in fun shapes.

Tip

Gag gifts are appropriate in some offices and with some co-workers but not all. Before buying something with an R-rated image or curse words on it, picture everyone at the holiday party watching your co-worker open the wrapped gift. A mug that says "I hate my job" might strike you as a funny Secret Santa gift for your best friend at work but will probably be awkward for the boss to see.

Classic fallback gifts

When in doubt, you're always free to select one of those classic, generic gifts that shows up under the Christmas tree at every white elephant gift exchange party. They're not going to win you any awards for choosing a unique gift or the best gift at the party, but most people will be perfectly happy to unwrap these useful items. For example:

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  • Candles and/or candle warmers and other accessories
  • Coffee mugs plus coffee, tea or hot chocolate mix
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Fuzzy socks or mittens
  • Picture frames
  • DIY gifts, like handmade jewelry or crocheted coasters
  • Office supply gift sets with planners, nice pens and other office supplies

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No matter who's participating in your office's Christmas gift exchange, exchanging small presents with your co-workers ‌should‌ be a fun way to spread some holiday cheer and celebrate the end of another productive year. So, don't stress—just choose something you'd be happy to receive and cross your fingers that Diane in HR loves it too.

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